Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Bears are nice but, oh, Santa!

The Bears played the Detroit Lions this week.  While they were made to work for it, Jay Cutler and the Bears prevailed with a score of 24-20.


What is really fantastic is the CTA Holiday Train, a/k/a Santa's Express, a/k/a the Christmas Train.  The Chicago Transit Authority has operated this holiday-time transit for the past 19 years with each CTA line getting to experience it.  I have always managed to miss it except for one year when I was going out to a suburban shopping center on a Friday evening and as I got on the Kennedy Expressway, there it was!  I honked and waved out my window.  "Hi, Santa!" I yelled.  I suspect Santa did not notice me because the Kennedy is noisy morning, noon, and night; that year, like most years, there was nothing left for me courtesy of the North Pole.  (Never mind that I rent and have neither a tree nor a fireplace.)  This year the Christmas Train found me.

When the Christmas Train operates, it royally honks up whatever train line it is on.  I ride the Blue Line with a coworker.  Thanks to a slow-moving Holiday Train, on Thursday it took over an hour to get home.  On Friday, there was another vast crowd at the station where we board and I said the Christmas train had already come through and that things were messed up.  My friend looked up the track and said about the approaching train, "That's the Christmas Train."  I said, "No, it can't be," and he told me to look.  It was indeed the Christmas Train.

My reaction was this:  I started jumping up and down with glee (not a good look for a big, middle-aged woman).  I clapped my hands with joy.  There was a lot of waving when Santa passed on his flat-bed car.  I was so delighted that I almost started crying from sheer happiness.  I guess I'd wanted to ride the Christmas Train more than I thought I did.

Santa's Express  interior
The train is covered in twinkling lights and signs that say things like "SEASONS" on one car and "GREETINGS" on the next. There are icicles and snowflakes on the windows.  Inside there is signage for North Pole businesses and the seats all have Christmas-themed upholstery.  The vertical poles used for hanging on when the train is in motion were red-and-white like candy canes.  Garland, lights, and bows were hung throughout.  Christmas songs were piped into the cars and the scent of cinnamon was spread via the vents.  In other words, it was just what you don't expect from the CTA and it was wonderful.  It was even worth my several years of waiting.

Next on TMZ, Santa at ORD
I can be an excitable photographer and only managed to snap off one decent shot on my phone's camera and so decided to find the Christmas Train on Saturday and take the pics I wanted.  The Saturday train was stuffed with happy adults and kids, glad to be having this experience (except for this one little boy who wanted to sit with his older brother so he could watch the sibling playing on Nintendo DS and kept crying and screaming "NO!" at the top of his lungs when his parents and even his brother asked him to cooperate).  When we got to the O'Hare Airport terminus, the massive crowd sorted itself out and I took a totally TMZ picture of Santa ("We got Santa, you know, Jolly Old Saint Nick?  On the Holiday Train at O'Hare Airport in Chicago," as Harvey nods and writes S. Claus on the board).  Plus I got to ride the Christmas Train two days in a row and that made me very happy.

I took a regular CTA train back toward home, delighted that something so simple could make so many people so happy and even more so that I could feel this sort of delight, and I am delighted it was the CTA that did it.  Now if they'd just fix the actual transit system, I would be delighted 365 days a year.

Wishing you and yours peace, good health, and great joy.

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